What is SEL and why is it important?

One of the new buzz words in education is SEL (social and emotional learning). Schools are increasingly being asked to take on the challenge of helping students regulate their behavior and deal with their feelings. This is an issue for schools across the board – public and private, in both affluent and lower income communities.

Many students face trauma today whether it is in the form of poverty, hunger, homelessness, abuse, divorce, an absent parent, substance abuse in the home, violence in the home and/or community, parental stress – at all income levels, bullying, etc. These issues inevitably cause problems for children in school and can lead to a variety of negative behaviors from inability to pay attention in class to violent outbursts that disrupt the class.

Many teachers say they are ill equipped to handle students exhibiting these behaviors and their schools do not have the necessary resources to support these students. Below is a link to an article in Education Week that highlights this problem. One of the statistics that I found startling is that on average in public schools across the country there are 482 students for each counselor. Clearly the resources are stretched way too thin.

One highly regarded school in Boston is a prime example of this problem. The school has over 2,400 students and a guidance staff of approximately 8 counselors – a 300 to 1 ratio. There is no way that one person can effectively support 300 students at once, some of whom are applying to college and need more guidance. These students have issues with substance abuse, eating disorders, mental health issues and stress that accompanies the demands of a rigorous curriculum. The drop out rate at this school is very high. Many parents are not equipped to handle these issues and seek partners at their child’s school to help navigate these common teenage issues.

I hear from many parents who feel like the public schools are failing them and their children, and they are seeking smaller schools with more support services for both their children and all the children in the classroom. Even if your child is not experiencing an issues, they are bound to be impacted by their peers bringing these issues into the classroom. If the teacher and the school do not have effective programs in place to support all students then everyone suffers. Private schools in particular have the resources and the mindset to support the whole child – socially and emotionally.

Check out the article at the link below.


Anne Yount

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